Sunday, April 18, 2021
Just a quick follow-up to my April 12 post on COVID-19 and Lawyers Working from Home. In that post, I indicated that law firms had been slow to adopt work from home before COVID-19 hit. I also raised a question about the extent to which work-at-home solutions would survive the pandemic. And I noted that "[t]here is so much I could say about all this."
I learned this week that property security solutions provider Kastle Systems International LLC has created an online "Back to Work Barometer" that tracks real estate occupancy. Based on data reported for last week (April 12 & 13), "[t]he legal industry is returning to work at a much higher rate than other industries." The average reported occupancy rate for all industries was 24%. But for the legal industry, the reported average rate was 37.2%.
Earlier this year, it was predicted that many law firms would begin to return to work in earnest in the spring. See here. But reports also note later return dates and continued work from home for some. See here and here.
Culture considerations also may interact with post-COVID-19 returns to the workplace, as I briefly indicated in my April 12 post. Maureen Naughton, Goodwin Procter's Chief Innovation Officer, recently wrote a piece published by Bloomberg Law that offers some important reflections and wise advice on the culture issue:
While a commitment to a more flexible, work-from-anywhere workplace is welcome and overdue, consider its effect on your organization’s culture and sense of community.
Culture takes a long time to build but can dissipate quickly. And culture is certainly stronger when people can spend time together; spontaneous meetings and interactions increase our sense of community, foster development and mentorship, and spark innovative ideas at a moment’s notice.
Such meetings are at the foundation of an innovative and collaborative culture and we must make a concerted effort to preserve what makes us unique while maintaining a healthy, safe environment for our clients and colleagues.
As we evaluate the post-Covid-19 workplace, we must balance the flexibility afforded by remote work with its cultural implications. It is a careful balance, which—if calibrated properly—can benefit rather than harm your culture.
I may be wrong, but I do see office culture as a key concern for law firms--and, in all honesty, for law schools, too. The autonomy of law professors is well known. Even before the pandemic, many had decreased their time in the office. Weaker cultural bonds as among faculty may have impacts on faculty shared governance.
I still may have more to say on this, but I wanted to note these points while they were still fresh on my mind . . . .